We speak exclusively to Ronjon Nag about his first fund, targeting seed investments in Longevity AI and biotech.
The world of Longevity-specific investment funds just got bigger. R42 Group, the investment group of Dr Ronjon Nag, has launched its first fund this week. The R42 AI and Longevity Fund is a $16 million seed fund targeting early stage investments in companies “at the intersection of mathematics and biology.”
Longevity.Technology: Ronjon Nag is already well-known for making early investments in Longevity, but this is the first time he’s put together a fund. Earlier this week we caught up exclusively with Nag, the new fund’s Managing Partner, to see what’s behind this latest development.
A serial entrepreneur and investor, Ronjon Nag is a founder, advisor and board member of multiple start-ups, some of which have been sold to giants including Apple, BlackBerry, and Motorola. Over the past six years, he has invested in a wide range of technology businesses, using a family office approach to investing.
“It’s a $16 million seed fund – we aim to make 30 seed investments and 10 follow-on investments in the best ones.”
Over the last year or so, Nag has been working with Anastasiya Giarletta, Principal at R42, making investments in the US and in the UK at the intersection of biology and mathematics, with a particular focus on Longevity. This work led to the creation of the new fund, which closed this week and is already investing in new ventures.
“It’s a $16 million seed fund – we aim to make 30 seed investments and 10 follow-on investments in the best ones,” Nag tells us. “We’ll be making seed, first check, or early check investments in the $250,000 range, in what I call tough tech in this space.”
By “tough tech” Nag means companies with unique technologies and therefore fewer competitors. And, while his definition of Longevity (of course) includes biotech companies focused on addressing the hallmarks of aging, Nag’s view of the space is broader.
“Our thesis is that mathematics, computer science, can accelerate activity across biotech – we’ve seen that in a number of areas – using mathematics to figure out new things,” he says, highlighting AI as one of the fund’s key areas of interest. “But we’re also interested in technologies that might help you live better in older age – robotics and these kinds of things.”
With the fund up and running this week, Nag expects to be able to announce its first investments in the next few weeks. Without revealing many details about those investments, he tells us that the first will likely be in a company focused on mitochondria.
Nag explains that the kinds of companies R42 is ideally looking for should be able to demonstrate some kind of “business moat” – unique IP or a key partnership, for example. He expects that companies will likely be “very early stage – usually three to five people, often coming out of a university.”
“The ideal is a postdoc, or PhD student just finishing their research topic, or a couple of years out,” says Nag. “Almost by definition, they’re the world’s expert in that topic!”
A value-add for R42 investee companies is access to the group’s wider ecosystem, including the R42 Institute, which runs courses and seminars, bringing together thought leaders from across the Longevity spectrum to share their expertise on a wide range of subjects. The Institute also offers fellowship opportunities for young people to work on 12-week AI projects.
“We are seeing a lot of companies and a lot of science indicating there’s something in the blood that is helping people live longer.”
When it comes to Longevity developments in general, Nag is excited by several areas.
“We are seeing a lot of companies and a lot of science indicating there’s something in the blood that is helping people live longer,” he says, mentioning the Conboys’ seminal Nature paper on heterochronic parabiosis. “Also – on the DNA repair side – is there a way to have broad-spectrum, immune response to help that repair system? And then there is the use of mathematics to look at genetic databases and predict these things.”